Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Amazon parrot finds its way home to Gastonia doctor after five-year absence

If her wings carry her away from home again, Eunice may be able to tell helpful humans where she belongs.

“We need to teach them their address,” Jayne Stafford said, grinning as Dr. Barry Scanlan lifted the parrot from her perch. Birds that can mimic human speech could use their gift of gab to find their owners if they fly away, she said.

Scanlan, who returned Eunice to his Gastonia home last week after a five-year absence, agreed.

“You’re going to learn Daddy’s name,” he told Eunice, stroking the bird’s feathered back.

A double-yellow headed Amazon parrot, Eunice flew through an open back door and soared out of sight in 2004. Scanlan scoured the sky for his beloved pet, but Eunice was nowhere to be found.

“We drove all over the neighborhood,” Scanlan said. “It was ridiculous, we drove pretty much a mile-mile and a half in every direction looking for any sign of yellow or green in the trees.”

Amazon parrots aren’t native to North Carolina and are usually killed by predators if they wander into the wild. As months and years passed, Scanlan abandoned hope of finding Eunice.

“I thought she was dead,” he said. “I was just certain.”

Last week, Scanlan’s brother showed him an ad for a found Amazon parrot in The Gaston Gazette’s classifieds. On a lark, he called the number and described his missing bird.

Stafford had been fostering Eunice for several weeks and placed the classified ad to find the 7-year-old parrot’s missing owner. The man who had found the bird and kept it for nearly five years recently died, she explained.

“I knew this was a bird that somebody was looking for,” Stafford said. “I just wanted to make sure she got back in the right hands.”

A bird lover herself, Stafford lost her African grey parrot, Mick, in August 2005. She continues to search for Mick — whose vocabulary includes, “Oh, praise the Lord!”— in newspaper classifieds and on Web sites like

“A lot of people who do find them don’t always know there’s a way to get them back home,” she said.

Breeders of exotic birds typically attach small bands to their legs inscribed with serial numbers. Scanlan provided Stafford with his breeder band number, and she matched it to the band on Eunice’s leg.

“It was the most bizarre thing,” Scanlan said. “The odds against it were astronomical. I asked if I could come over immediately.”

A family practice physician at Riverwood Medical Associates in Gastonia, Scanlan was reunited with Eunice on Tuesday night. The colorful bird is quickly readjusting to her old home.

“It really is a miracle that she’s here,” Scanlan said. “The odds are so against it. There was a divine hand involved there.”

Eunice still speaks the phrases she learned years ago, including “Hey, baby bird” and “Hello, how are you?” Scanlan said double-yellow headed Amazons are the second-best talkers among tropical bird species.

Stafford has an African grey parrot named Joel, and she still hopes to find Mick someday. He couldn’t survive in the wild for four years, but it’s possible that someone found him and is raising him as their pet.

“The thing is, you don’t know where they’ve landed,” Stafford said. “Somebody might have picked him up immediately.”

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